Basic Patterns

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The basic format for making sound in Tidal looks like this

d1 $ sound "drum"

You can stop making a sound using silence:

d1 $ silence

Pick a different sound from the same set, with `:`

d1 $ sound "drum:1"

Some of the samples which come with Tidal are listed below. Try some out!

flick sid can metal future gabba sn mouth co gretsch mt arp h cp
cr newnotes bass hc tabla bass0 hh bass1 bass2 oc bass3 ho odx
diphone2 house off ht tink perc bd industrial pluck trump printshort
jazz voodoo birds3 procshort blip drum jvbass psr wobble drumtraks koy
rave bottle kurt latibro rm sax lighter lt arpy feel less stab ul

You can see what other sounds there are (or add your own) by looking in the Dirt-Samples folder. You can find it via the SuperCollider menu: 'File > Open user support directory > downloaded-quarks > Dirt-Samples'.

Make a sequence

d1 $ sound "bd hh sn hh"

The more steps in the sequence, the faster it goes:

d1 $ sound "bd bd hh bd sn bd hh bd"

This is because of the way Tidal handles time. There is a universal ‘cycle’ (sort of like a musical 'bar') which is always running. Tidal will play all of the sounds between the speech marks in one cycle, unless we tell it not to (we’ll learn how to do that later). You’ll also notice Tidal will space the sounds out evenly within the cycle Which means we can end up with polyrhythmic structures (more on those later).

We can change the length of the cycle using setcps (where cps stands for cycles per second) - this is a bit like bpm (beats per minute).

setcps 0.6

You can use d1, d2, d3...d9 to play multiple sequences at the same time

d2 $ sound "sn sn:2 sn bd sn"

You can stop all the running patterns with hush.


You can pause everything by changing the cycle length to a negative number (remember to put negative numbers in brackets).

setcps (-1)

Start it up again with a positive number

setcps 0.6

Or you can `solo` one channel:

d1 $ sound "arpy cp arpy:2"

d2 $ sound "sn sn:2 bd sn"

solo 2

-- now only the second pattern will be playing

unsolo 2

-- now both will be playing, again

Let add some more variety to our sequences.

Add a silence/rest with ~:

d1 $ sound "bd ~ sn:3 bd sn:5 ~ bd:2 sn:2"

Fit a subsequence into a step with square brackets:

d1 $ sound "bd [bd cp] bd bd"

This can make for flexible time signatures:

d1 $ sound "[bd bd sn:5] [bd sn:3]"

You can put subsequences inside subsequences:

d1 $ sound "[[bd bd] bd sn:5] [bd sn:3]"

Keep going..

d1 $ sound "[[bd [bd bd bd bd]] bd sn:5] [bd sn:3]"

You can repeat a step with *:

d1 $ sound "bd sd*2"

This works with subsequences too:

d1 $ sound "bd [sd cp]*2"

Or you can do the opposite using /:

d1 $ sound "bd sn/2"
d1 $ sound "bd [sn cp]/2"

* works by 'speeding up' a step to play it multiple times. / works by 'slowing it down'.

We can also schedule patterns across cycles using < and >:

d1 $ sound "bd <sd cp arpy>"
d1 $ sound "<bd sn> <sd [cp cp]> <bd [cp cp]>"


Tidal has lots of effects we can use to change the way things sound.

vowel is a filter which adds a vowel sound -- try a, e, i, o and u

d1 $ sound "drum drum drum drum" # vowel "a"

We create patterns of effects in much the same way we create patterns of sounds. We call these effect and sound patterns 'control patterns'. So

d1 $ sound "drum drum drum drum" # vowel "a o e e"

Remember that we can use "<>" to schedule across cycles

d1 $ sound "drum drum drum drum" # vowel "<a o e e>"

You can add a non-vowel letter to pause the vowel effect

d1 $ sound "drum drum drum drum" # vowel "a o p p"

Tidal does its best to map patterns across to one another

d1 $ sound "drum drum drum drum" # vowel "a o e"

The structure comes from the left - try swapping the parameters

d1 $ vowel "a o ~ i" # sound "drum"

Health warning - This is one of the changes coming up in the new Tidal - you will be able to control which side the structure comes from. . Or combine structure from both sides.

gain changes the volume of different sounds

d1 $ sound "bd hh sn:1 hh sn:1 hh" # gain "1 0.7 0.5"

speed and note are used for pitching samples.

speed affects the speed of playback, e.g. 2 = up an octave

d1 $ sound "numbers:1 numbers:2 numbers:3 numbers:4" # speed "1 1.5 2 0.5"

Or we can take the pattern from the speed parameter

d1 $ speed "1 2 4" # sound "jungbass:6"

note pitches the sample up in semitones, e.g. 12 = up an octave

d1 $ up "0 ~ 12 24" # sound "jungbass:6"

pan allows us to create stereo effects - 0 = left, 0.5 = middle, 1 = right

d1 $ sound "numbers:1 numbers:2 numbers:3 numbers:4" # pan "0 0.5 1"

shape adds distortion (but be careful - it also makes the sound much louder)

d1 $ sound "kurt:4 kurt:4" # shape "0 0.78" # gain "0.7"

feeling brave ?

Try more effects:

delay / delaytime / delayfeedback / cutoff / resonance / room / size

Continuous patterns

sine is a continuous pattern following a sine curve from 0 to 1 and back

d1 $ sound "bd*32" # gain sine

You can also try tri, saw and rand.